What is a thesis statement for "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Gilman?

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The main character in this story, "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a woman who has been confined to a bedroom. Her physician husband keeps her locked in the bedroom because she is "not well." The room is decorated in yellow wallpaper which she finds repugnant and frightening. She cannot sleep...

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Certainly, you could argue that Charlotte Perkins Gilman opposes the sexist practices of the nineteenth-century medical community, which largely excludes women from having a say in their own treatment and determines that their medical problems are the result of their own imaginations. Obviously, the narrator's sense of her own needs is not marked by her husband and doctor, John. The boredom which is brought on by her "treatment"—likely one called the "rest cure," which advocated for the absence of all mental or intellectual stimulation so that the woman's body could restore proper blood flow away from her brain and back to her sexual organs—causes her to become obsessed with the wallpaper. With nothing else to focus on, she focuses her significant powers of intellect—evidenced by her vocabulary and evident knowledge of many areas—on the paper. The narrator claims that a little conversation and stimulation would do her good, but her opinion is unheeded, and she is threatened with having to go to a well-known doctor, Weir Mitchell, who actually pioneered this "treatment." Her husband/doctor even constantly belittles her as well as her condition, saying things like "Bless her little heart! [. . .] she shall be as sick as she pleases!", implying that the narrator is actually responsible for her own disease and that she could simply choose to no longer have it, if she wanted.

The narrator's mental degeneration throughout the story is quite clearly caused by her "treatment," established by the male profession of medicine and the fact that she's been locked up on the top floor of a strange house that she does not like by the person who's supposed to love her the most: her husband. She begins with a condition we would likely refer to as postpartum depression, and she ends with a complete mental breakdown where she no longer recognizes her own identity, even referring to herself as "Jane" in third person, after experiencing hallucinations and extreme paranoia. Clearly, Gilman points the finger at those who administer the treatment rather than the one who is treated.

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I was always taught a thesis statement should be a miniature encapsulation of the essay as a whole. In that way, it should give the main concept, following by roughly three evidences that support that argument or line of thinking. So, the first objective is to select an argument from the book on which to take a stance. I would go with something like “the woman’s postpartum depression begins an ever increasing spiral into insanity.”

Next, you choose three examples or pieces from the work that act to support your argument. In this case I would say “this is evidenced by her growing suspicion of her husband, her obsession with the wallpaper, and her belief in the spirits in the house.” Combine it all together for a cohesive thesis statement: “The woman’s postpartum depression begins an ever increasing spiral into insanity, as evidenced by her growing suspicion of her husband, her obsession with the yellow wallpaper, and her belief in this spirits in the house.” This will also define your essay’s structure and composition.

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A thesis statement should be both arguable and specific. To be arguable, the thesis has to state an opinion and defend it by using quotes from the story as evidence.

To determine an opinion about the story which you can defend, you first need to decide what the story means: what point is Gilman trying to make? This, of course, can be understood through the themes of the story.

It is often argued that Gilman's story is critiquing gender divisions in nineteenth-century society. One possible thesis statement could argue that it is wrong for a man (or men) to decide, on the basis of gender, that a woman should "naturally" be happy in the home and that the "cure" for her postpartum depression or "temporary nervous depression" should be the deprivation of all of her intellectual stimulation. This thesis could say something like the following: in "The Yellow Wallpaper," Gilman shows that, just like men, women need intellectual stimulation to stave off depression and that depriving them of intellectual stimulation leads to madness.

You would then need to find examples that show how terrible the woman's situation is and how her current situation is not helping her in any way.

Another theme of the story is that of freedom and autonomy. Does the narrator achieve freedom in her madness? She says she does—"I've got out at last"—but has she really? Obviously, she is still physically imprisoned, but has she liberated her soul through madness? If you argue against madness as a real liberation, your thesis would say something like the following: Gilman is critiquing a situation in which insanity is the only way a woman can achieve liberation from captivity.

You would then show that the narrator, despite what she thinks, is still in a terrible situation, as she is locked in a room that she crawls around in like an animal.

These are simply some suggestions. Whatever thesis you pick, be sure to back it up with examples and quotes from the story.

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What is a thesis statement pertaining to symbolism in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

It's difficult to give you a thesis statement without first knowing what it is you want to express about the symbolism in this story. Here's the advice the eNotes Essay Lab gives:

The thesis statement is where you will let your readers know what position you will take on your topic. When you write your thesis, don’t be shy: make a bold and factual statement that expresses your position.

So first you need to decide what your position is. What particular point(s) do you want to make? This story is full of symbols: the stair guard that is supposed to keep children from falling downstairs actually isolates the woman from the rest of the house; the fact that she is kept in what used to be the nursery; the strange woman she sees in the wallpaper. Does the color yellow have any significance? Are the shapes or patterns on the wallpaper significant.

Once you've decided what detail(s) you want to discuss, then work on an interesting way to draw the reader in to your essay.

Take a stab at writing the introduction and then post it in the Essay Lab for help. You don't even have to worry about finding it. I've pasted the direct link to the Add New Topic site for you in the sources section.

Don't forget to read the article How to Write an Introduction. That link is in the sources section as well.

Good luck!

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What is a thesis statement pertaining to symbolism in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

You may want to focus on the most important symbol, the yellow wallpaper itself. Most critics believe that it symbolizes the mind of the main character. It can also serve as a symbol for the way women were treated in the 1800's. Textual support for this comes from the description of the pattern on the wallpaper. It has "pointless
patterns," "lame uncertain curves," and "outrageous angles" that "destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions." All of these descriptions point both to the way the narrator's mind perceives the world and the way many women were perceived when the story was written. You could also focus on some of the other symbols in the story like the nursery, which symbolizes how women were treated as babies, the barred windows, which symbolizes the oppressive rules women were supposed to obey, and/or the bed, which many see as symbolizing women's sexuality. Good luck with your paper.

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